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25 years ago, a Cuban jumped like no one has done it again

25 years ago, a Cuban jumped like no one has done it again

Javier Sotomayor was afraid of heights. But he overcame his fears and managed to jump so high that, to this day, no one has managed to overcome him. 25 years have passed since that feat that gave Cuba an unbeatable record.

Salamanca athletics track. July 27, 1993. Sotomayor already had the 2.43 m and 2.44 m high jump records under his belt. But I wanted more. Take a deep breath. Draw the jump in your mind. Run. Jump He lightly brushes the rod but his legs pass clean and it does not fall. It is a new world record: 2.45 m.

“People talk about the 25 years of my world record. But for me it’s been 30 years as a record holder. Because if I had not surpassed myself (myself) I would have had 30 years with the record. The 2.43 I did in 1988, no one has surpassed it either, ”says ‘Soto’ to AFP at his home in Havana.

The Cuban athlete, now 50 years old and with four children, created his own technique. «I changed the last step, which was supposed to be the shortest of the last 3. In practice, it was the longest for me. I turned my foot a lot, “he explains. ‘Saltomayor’ made the most of the strength of his tendons in his leg.

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His technique also allowed him to ask to change the order of the nails of his jumping shoes, reinforcing the side where he leaned the most. «The way I put my foot, I changed the order of the nails, to protect my foot. He had already suffered two serious sprains », he remembers.

– Fear of heights –

Of course, his technique worked in dry weather. On wet ground you could slip. For this reason, he only obtained silver in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, recalls the 1.96 meter tall athlete.

But before the success, this boy from Limonar, Matanzas province (west), was afraid of heights. «At 10 I was afraid of heights, at 14 I began to convince myself that I could be a great jumper. Since then I have set very ambitious goals, “he says.

«Fear is lost with practice, cooperating one. They gave me exercises to throw me on my back of 2 meters and both with a 3 meter mat. Acrobatics exercises ”, he explains.

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He says that what he proposed, he jumped on, but fear returned to the next level. Although with that fear he got to jump 2 meters. “Later, in Havana, with my coach, a psychologist, little by little my fear of heights disappeared,” he details. Already a professional, to finish killing fear, he parachuted.

– The accusation –

Among his most significant awards, Sotomayor has Olympic gold medals in Barcelona-1992 (2.43 m) and silver in Sydney-2000 (2.29 m) and three gold medals in Pan American Games: Indianapolis-1987 (2, 32 m), Havana-1991 (2.35 m) and Mar del Plata-1995 (2.40 m).

Those were times when Cuba was going through a severe economic crisis, after the fall of the Soviet Union. «I had my best moments at the time when Cuba needed them the most (…) It can bring joy to the people. I had the support of my people. What I did with the people and what the people did with me was simultaneous, ”he details.

There was a fourth gold medal at the 1999 Winnipeg Pan American Games that was withdrawn on a doping charge. «I know that many people believed in my innocence, among them Fidel (Castro). Because he believed in me, many actions were taken to prove my innocence, “he explains.

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Sotomayor and the Cuban authorities argued that there were irregularities in the handling of their evidence. “With the amount they said I had ingested, it was impossible to jump, impossible to stay alive (…) In Cuba we are clean athletes,” he says.

Today, retired from the tracks, he is secretary of the Athletics Federation and closely follows the competitions of his discipline.

“Since 2013, (the Qatari Mutaz Essa) Barshim and (the Ukrainian Bohdan) Bondarenko (Ukraine) have been the closest to the world record (…) Barshim is the one that has held the most. If I had to say a name with possibilities to break the record, it is him (Barshim) », who jumped 2.43m in 2014. Both have tried the 2.46m, still without success.

Still unbeatable, Sotomayor knows that nothing is forever: “It is not that I would celebrate that they break the world record, but I have always been convinced, I have been convinced for 30 years that someday someone will have to surpass me.” AFP

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